As we age, we lose brain cells; they and the connections between them may become damaged. This can manifest in our inability to remember names, where we left our car keys or other similar frustrating losses of short-term memory.
This is a normal process of aging. However, more significant changes in memory or cognitive skills - changes significant enough to reduce one’s ability to perform simple tasks and everyday activities - can prove more of a challenge for the individual and those closest to them.
The umbrella term for such a general decline in mental ability that affects daily life is Dementia.
Is not a specific disease. It's an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% - 80% of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.
While symptoms of dementia can vary greatly, at least two of the following core mental functions must be significantly impaired to be considered dementia: Memory, communication and language, ability to focus and pay attention, reasoning and judgment and visual perception.
People with dementia usually have trouble solving problems and carrying out daily tasks. Some may have trouble controlling their emotions.
Here are some early warning signs that are not part of normal memory loss:
Diseases that fall under the term of dementia are as follows:
Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia. It usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time and can affect multiple brain functions. Initial symptoms are minor memory problems, such as forgetting recent conversations and forgetting the names of places and objects.
As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms develop, such as: confusion; disorientation and getting lost; difficulty planning or making decisions and problems with speech and language. Eventually, the individual may develop problems moving without assistance or performing self-care tasks and may also undergo personality changes. Around one in 14 people over the age of 65 and one in six people over the age of 80 will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder. This means symptoms continue and worsen over time. There is not cure – there are only treatments that can manage the symptoms.
Parkinson’s occurs when cells in the brain’s substantia nigra begin to die. The cells in the substantia nigra produce a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the brain that control movement and coordination. As these dopamine producing cells die, dopamine levels in the body drop. The messages to the brain controlling movement are therefore slowed, gradually reducing an individual’s ability to control their movements.
Huntington’s disease is a rare and progressive brain disorder that causes nerve cells in the brain to break down over time, affecting the body, mind and emotions. It’s characterised by uncontrolled movements, emotional disturbances and cognitive difficulties. It was originally referred to as “chorea” due to the jerky dance-like movements associated with the illness.
Pick’s disease is a rare type of age-related dementia that affects the frontal lobes of the brain. It can cause speech problems like aphasia, along with behaviour difficulties such as mood swings, compulsive or inappropriate behaviours, disinterest in daily life, withdrawal from social interaction and repetitive behaviour.
For the individual suffering from dementia, life can be frightening, confusing and embarrassing. Some types of the disease lead to depression and some individuals may self-isolate; others may exhibit inappropriate behaviours in social groups. They often believe that no one else is in the same situation or feels like they do.
The Cork Tree Residences policy of “right to your home for life” ensures that when things progress, individuals can be cared for while continuing to live in a familiar and therefore comforting setting.
Due to our extra support, structure and guidance, any individuals living with dementia can continue to feel safe and valued. The full range of community programmes, from art and music to aqua exercise, ensures that mind and body can still be stimulated.
They are within a small select group of their peers, a social group who completely understands their diagnosis because they are living with memory loss themselves. Yes, these residents are working with a deficit, but we are not focused on it. Instead we are all focused on happy, engaged, self-confident living.
Our team of nurses and caretaker staff, including those on duty at night, are on hand whenever needed. The additional option of a medical orderly for individual care during the day or night-time can be booked as and when needed to provide peace of mind and more tailored care.
Finally, because The Cork Tree Residences have a fenced perimeter that is manned. Together with one member of caretaking staff for every five residents, companions and friends of anyone living with dementia can rest assured that they will remain safe at The Cork Tree Residences.